Coconut milk rice is a one pot traditional rice pilaf made with fragrant rice, aromatic spices and coconut milk. This simple & quick dish not only sets your taste buds tingling with delight but also surprises you with amazing flavors. Make it either on the stovetop or in the instant pot with my easy recipe. This coconut milk rice is a meal in itself but you can also pair with an Indian Raita or any curry for a complete meal.Rice dishes are a universal favorite in Asia much like the pasta in other parts of the world. Coconut and rice feature prominently in Asian cuisine in countries and regions where coconut and rice are found in abundance.
About Coconut Milk Rice
Coconut milk rice is an Asian rice dish where rice is cooked primarily with coconut milk. There are numerous ways this dish is made and every Asian country or region has their own version. You will find coconut milk rice being made with spices, veggies, herbs and sometimes even with sugar.
While the recipe shared here is essentially South Indian and popular in the coastal regions, the Thai and SriLankans have their own versions of coconut milk rice. There are again sweet and savory versions too.
The simplest is the Thai version that’s made by simply cooking Jasmine rice with coconut milk, water, salt and a small amount of sugar.
This Indian coconut milk rice has some whole spices added to it for a unique aroma and some veggies for nutrition, making it a wholesome meal. Basmati rice is simmered in coconut milk along with sautéed veggies and tempered whole spices, to create a rich and creamy meal with a taste that lingers long.
While the dish may seem similar to an Indian Pulao or pilaf, this dish is actually different in taste as you cook the rice in coconut milk instead.
1. Add 2 cups rice to a bowl and rinse it well thrice. Drain the water and soak it with fresh water for 20 mins. Meanwhile chop 1 carrot, 6 green beans and slit 1 to 2 green chilies.
2. Optional to make homemade Coconut Milk: Grind 1 cup chopped coconut pieces or grated coconut with 1.5 cups water. Strain and extract the milk. Use 1.5 cups coconut milk only for this recipe. Set this aside. Alternately you can use store bought milk.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil or ghee in a pot or pressure cooker. You may skip this step if you don’t want to use nuts. Add 20 split cashews and fry them until golden. Remove them and keep aside for garnish
4. Reduce the heat to minimum. To the same pot or pressure cooker, add the whole spices
1 Bay leaf
2 inch Cinnamon pieces
4 green cardamoms
1 teaspoon cumin seeds or shahi jeera
If using cooking in a regular pot: Regulate the flame to low and cook covered until the rice is tender and fully cooked. Check if the rice is under cooked and there is no more moisture, splash some warm water and cook further until soft and tender. Later let the coconut milk rice rest in the pot for another 10 mins.
Rinsing rice: It is important to rinse the rice well to get rid of excess starch on the surface. This surface starch mostly makes the rice sticky, lumpy and mushy.
Soaking rice: It is always better to soak aged basmati rice as this helps the grains to soak up some moisture and expand the rice grains to fluffy texture.
Kind of Rice: For this post I have used aged basmati rice. If you are using any other rice, you will have to follow the same process and use the amount of water as you would to cook it plain. If using jasmine rice you may cook it directly with 1:1.25 cups of water in a cooker. If cooking in pot, you may add little more.
Ingredients & substitutes
Coconut milk: This recipe can be made with coconut milk from the carton or freshly extracted from fresh or frozen coconut. I have found the coconut milk from can too thick for this recipe. If you still want to use it, reduce the quantity and substitute with water.
We usually make this with fresh homemade coconut milk which includes the thin and the thick milk. Thin milk is the second extract and thick milk is the first extract.
Rice: Any non sticky variety of rice works well. We usually use the short grain rice or the aged basmati rice. Any kind of fragrant rice too works wonderfully well. Just ensure you rinse the rice well to avoid a mushy texture .
Spices: We use whole spices to infuse the aromatic flavors to the coconut milk rice. This makes a lot of difference to the rice but you may skip them if you do not have. I use bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, cumin & optionally star anise. You can use whatever you have in hand.
Mix veggies are optional in the recipe and can be skipped. You may just add a single veggie too like peas. Traditionally we use soaked chana dal but sometimes I use mixed veggies like carrots, peas, beans and corn. This way I ensure that we do not miss our daily quota of vegetables.
Nuts: I have used cashew nuts here for garnishing which you can skip completely or even include some raisins if you desire.